3 takeaways from Syracuse basketball’s 85-64 loss to Penn State

Quincy Guerrier
Nov. 29, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Quincy Guerrier addresses reporters following an 85-64 loss to Penn State at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wes Cheng, The Juice Online.

NEW YORK — The Orange was routed by Penn State, 85-64, in the third place game of the NIT Season Tipoff. Afterward, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim sounded the alarm. Here are three takeaways from Syracuse’s 85-64 loss:

GUERRIER NOTCHES FIRST DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Quincy Guerrier put in the best game of his young Syracuse career against the Nittany Lions, posting his first double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in a career-high 31 minutes.

The Canadian freshman replaced an ineffective Bourama Sidibe midway through the first half after the Orange was trailing 17-7. Guerrier’s energy and rebounding was a big reason why the Orange eventually tied the game at 35 early in the second half.

“He rebounded, and he did some things well,” Boeheim said.

Guerrier was by far SU’s best rebounder, doubling up the Orange’s second rebounder, Marek Dolezaj. Syracuse gave up a 29-rebound advantage on the glass, and it’s hard to imagine what it would’ve looked like without Guerrier.

“[Coach] wants me to be physical,” Guerrier said. “Sometimes he gets mad at me because I’m not physical and I’m soft. I just have to put it in my mind to be physical and play like a dog.”

Still, Guerrier is a freshman, and the learning curve has been steep. Four times on Friday, Guerrier got caught wandering in the 2-3 zone, and surrendered four open 3-pointers to Penn State.

And while he made a more concerted effort to get inside, he also dribbled into the paint without a plan several times, finishing with three turnovers.

“He got the ball inside three or four times and came up with nothing. He’s got to be able to get something,” Boeheim said. “He’s under the basket and he’s 6’7″ and 220 pounds. He goes up and gets it taken away from him. He’s got to be better in those situations.”

THE CALVARY ISN’T COMING

Boeheim offered a bleak outlook for the season after the loss, as he extended his timeline for his team to begin to top into its potential.

Initially, Boeheim thought it would take the majority of the non-conference schedule, but said he now believes it will take “15 or 20” games, which extends well into ACC play.

Part of the reason has been from his guard play. His starting backcourt of Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard III has struggled against high-major opponents.

» Related: Syracuse playing critical part of non-conference schedule

Buddy shot just 5-16 from the field, finishing with 14 points. Girard struggled even more with his offense, going 1-9 from the field, though he did lead SU with seven assists. This came a game after the duo combined for 5-22 shooting in a 14-point loss to Oklahoma State.

“We have two young guards that aren’t doing the things we need to do,” Boeheim said. “We don’t have a lot to look forward to or pin our hopes on.”

Their primary backup, freshman Brycen Goodine, struggled as well, shooting a combined 1-6 in both games at Barclays Center.

“This is going to take time,” Boeheim said. “Anyone who didn’t see that wasn’t paying attention. We’ve got a long way to go and we are going to have to go through some painful times.”

Perhaps painful times are ahead, but they won’t last forever, will they? Dolezaj remained optimistic that SU could turn things around.

“Last year we started badly,’’ Dolezaj said. “We had two losses here and we lost to Buffalo and Old Dominion. We can still make the tournament. Last year, we lost two (in New York City). We just need to forget about it and get ready for the next game.’’

SYRACUSE COMPLETELY DOMINATED ON THE GLASS

The most glaring stat that jumped off the box score was rebounding. Syracuse was pummeled on the boards 57-28, with the Nittany Lions collecting an eye-popping 23 offensive rebounds.

Penn State forward Mike Watkins was a constant thorn in SU’s side, collecting 16 total rebounds, 11 on offense. Even guard Myreon Jones hurt the Orange with 10 rebounds for his first career double-double (he also scored 16 points).

Boeheim was “surprised” that his team was even within striking distance throughout most of the second half given the rebounding deficit.

The Syracuse head coach was particularly frustrated with center Bourama Sidibe, who played an ineffective 17 minutes, finishing with more fouls (5) than points (2) and rebounds (1) combined.

Sidibe, limited by a cold, missed two layups in the first four minutes, clearly effected by the stronger, more physical Watkins.

“There were two or three plays where Bourama didn’t jump,” Boeheim said. “When you have to tell a player to jump, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Syracuse found plenty of trouble on Friday evening, and will need to focus on protecting the glass going forward.

“If we can’t rebound the ball, we’re not going to win,” Boeheim said. “We have to do a better job. We can’t win being outrebounded by 29.”

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2488 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.